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Life's A Stage

Passion For Playing Drives Local Musicians

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 11:14 a.m. CST

Synth-pop, country rock and everything in between. Not only do the suburbs offer a variety of live music venues, it also is home to a number of talented musicians. Three share a peek at life behind the music.

A chance encounter at a suburban bar changed the course of a band, and a typical mom, forever. And for the members of Centerfold, it's been smooth sailing ever since.

The suburban pop-rock band began in the late 1970s, started up by Mark and Eric Wedow of Warrenville,  and pal Chuck Federowicz of Wheaton, while they were students at the College of DuPage. For the next several years, they performed as Centerfold, with Mark on guitar, Chuck on bass and Eric on drums, rounded out by the talents of guitarist and keyboard player Tom Kranz. By the mid-1980s, the band members had gone their separate ways, though they occasional discussed reuniting.

“It was like a Blues Brothers thing….’we gotta get the band back together,’” says Eric Wedow. Five years ago they did just that. And while performing in a Long Grove nightclub, they took a break to chat up some fans in the audience. Cindy Safran was among them.

“We invited her to come up and sing a song with us," says Eric Wedow. "She was phenomenal, and after the show, we were all like, don’t let her leave without getting her number.”

Though the band hadn’t been looking for a female singer, Safran proved a perfect fit. Now she is living out her rock ‘n roll fantasy and having the time of her life. Safran belts out classic and current rock, from Heart to Pink to Journey.

 “This is my first experience in a band and I just love it,” she says. “We’re so much like a family, we get along so well. There’s no drama.

All have daytime careers, in banking, engineering, as a small business owner, and a stay at home mom. But when the weekend comes, the six piece band rocks bars, festivals and outdoor venues throughout the  area.

 “When you see that people enjoy what you’re doing, either they get up and dance or they come up and say they appreciate the music, that’s what I really enjoy,” Eric says.

An acoustic show at a trendy suburban nightclub. A full band show on a legendary stage. A charity concert with the likes of Jim Peterik, Jef Beck and Brian Wilson. PeeWee soccer, gymnastics classes, and Girl Scout meetings.

It's all just a regular month for suburban rockers Mike and Katie Redmond. Married for eight years, the couple balances the demands of suburban family life, plus day jobs and a busy performance schedule with their country-rock band, The Redmonds.

The band also includes bass player Mike Gorman, pedal steel guitarist Rich Koc, multi-instrumentalist L.J. Slavin and drummer Rick Nelson.  Playing everything from Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash to Civil Wars and the Lumineers, the Redmonds have deemed their style "country rock revival.

“I’m a singer, he’s a guitarist so when we got together, it was natural for us to make music,” says Katie. The couple met at a suburban street festival, when both were hanging around the soundboard with musician friends.

“It was love at first sight,” says Mike, an established Chicago rock musician and former member of Off Broadway, who also works full time as a sales representative for a music wholesale company.

Katie is a classically trained solo vocalist who performed at weddings, corporate functions  before hitting the stage with husband Mike, as a fun way to earn extra money. (She still sings a heck of a National Anthem at sporting events, and her Ave Maria brings a tear to the eye.)

The couple performs both as an acoustic duo, and with their full band, averaging about three weekend dates per month, plus rehearsals.

For the most part, The Redmonds fit their performance schedule around family life, booking more dates in the summer, and bringing their daughters ages 5 and 6,  whenever possible. 

“Our children are our top priority and we want them to do well in school, so making it to teacher conferences and soccer games, is very important. We have to find a work and life balance just like anyone else, but instead of two things, we’re balancing three,” Katie says.

Together since 2009, the Chicago-based indie-rock band Chasing Mars has built a following locally and throughout the Midwest, playing college towns such as Champaign, Madison, Lansing and Ann Arbor, as well as Milwaukee, Louisville and Columbus, Ohio.

Describing the music as "the bastard child" of the Flaming Lips and Coldplay, with a bit of Radiohead,” guitarist Neven Armic, of Riverside.

The band has released an EP and a full-length CD, with a second EP set for release this fall. In addition to Armic, the band’s line-up includes Brookfield native Sean Goes on keyboards and vocals, and drummer Sam Brown of Chicago. Touring dates often include  bass player Evan West, of Brookfield.

The band began when Armic and Goes, friends since their days at Riverside-Brookfield High School, began a song-writing collaboration. Their early music was written and refined on laptops, though the process has since evolved, says Armic.

“The new songs are more collaborative. We bring them to practice and refine them together before going into the studio,” he explained, adding that the result is a livelier, more upbeat sound.

 “Putting the songs together so we can share them and connect with people is really fun. When have people come up and say how much they enjoyed our set and maybe buy a CD or a t-shirt, it lets us know we’re on the right track,” he says.

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